Guilty verdicts are justice for daughter killed by drunken driver, father says

Posted July 28, 2011, at 9:23 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 01, 2011, at 3:15 p.m.

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Jordyn Bakley's father, J.C. Bakley, says goodbye to Brandon Robitaille (right) after Garrett Cheney was found guilty at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday, July 28, 2011. The jury found Cheney guilty of all charges in the hit-and-run death of Jordyn Bakley.
Jordyn Bakley's father, J.C. Bakley, says goodbye to Brandon Robitaille (right) after Garrett Cheney was found guilty at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday, July 28, 2011. The jury found Cheney guilty of all charges in the hit-and-run death of Jordyn Bakley.
Penobscot County District attorney Christopher Almy offers closing arguments to the jury as he holds a picture of hit-and-run victim Jordyn Bakley (right in picture) at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday, July 28, 2011.
Penobscot County District attorney Christopher Almy offers closing arguments to the jury as he holds a picture of hit-and-run victim Jordyn Bakley (right in picture) at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday, July 28, 2011.
Garrett Cheney listens as closing arguments in the hit-and-run case against him are presented at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday, July 28, 2011.
Garrett Cheney listens as closing arguments in the hit-and-run case against him are presented at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday, July 28, 2011.

BANGOR, Maine — Jordyn Bakley got the justice she deserved, her father said Thursday after the man accused of driving the truck that struck and killed her was convicted of manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and two counts of drunken driving.

“Justice was served for our little girl today,” J.C. Bakley, 49, of Camden said outside the Penobscot Judicial Center. “She received what she deserved, although she doesn’t deserve to be where she is today.”

It was the first time a family member has spoken to reporters about the death 18 months ago of the 20-year-old University of Maine student.

The defendant, Garrett Cheney, 23, of South Berwick, remained stoic, almost expressionless, as he has throughout the trial, when the verdict was read. While the jury deliberated, Cheney waited in a conference room, a rosary draped around his neck.

After the verdict was announced, he comforted his sobbing mother and other weeping family members before they left the courthouse.

He remains free on $50,000 surety bail. A sentencing date has not been set.

The trial began on Tuesday, July 19. Testimony concluded Thursday morning with one rebuttal witness for the prosecution. The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for less than three hours after hearing closing arguments and instructions from Superior Court Justice William Anderson.

Jurors left the courtroom about 1:20 p.m. Thursday and informed a court officer that they had reached a verdict about 4:10 p.m.

Bakley, who praised prosecutors and police, said the nearly two-week trial had been difficult for his family. His sister-in-law, Robin, sat at his side throughout the proceedings but did not speak to reporters. Jordyn’s mother, Louise Bakley, could not attend the trial, according to the victim advocate for Penobscot County.

She burst into tears Thursday when the jury foreman replied “guilty” to the clerk’s inquiry of the verdict on the manslaughter charge.

Brandon Robitaille, the newspaper carrier who discovered Jordyn Bakley’s body in front of 15 Middle St. in Orono about 5:30 a.m. Jan. 30, 2010, embraced J.C. Bakley as he walked toward his car. Robitaille, 28, of Orono testified the first day of the trial but attended every day.

Interest in the trial was high, with local lawyers, court staff and law school students sitting in on portions of the proceedings.

Penobscot Count District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said outside the courthouse at an impromptu press conference that the verdict was “totally justified.”

“The evidence gathered by the Orono Police Department and the Maine State Police was so overwhelming in its detail, the jury had no choice but to reach the outcome that it did,” Almy said. “In my closing, I told them to follow the evidence, and they did.”

Defense attorney William T. Bly of Biddeford told reporters that the verdict had shaken his belief in the criminal justice system.

“This is an innocent kid that just got convicted,” he said. “Our evidence was absolutely compelling. There was absolutely a presumption of guilty by this jury. I will not sit on my hands and watch that kid go off to prison.”

Bly also criticized the jury for not taking longer to examine and consider the evidence.

“This jury did not review a single piece of evidence, did not ask for a read-back of testimony and did not ask to rehear any of the audio [recordings] introduced in this trial,” Bly said.

The attorney said he would file a motion asking Anderson to overturn the verdict.

Cheney was charged with manslaughter, aggravated criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury, and criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants. He was convicted on all four counts.

Cheney was in Orono on Jan. 29 visiting a cousin to celebrate the cousin’s 21st birthday, a witness told the jury last week.

After hitting Bakley, Cheney headed south on Interstate 95. His Silverado went off the highway about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 30 in Etna, according to testimony Monday. The damaged pickup was towed to the storage lot of a Newport towing firm.

Cheney was not injured but was charged with drunken driving. His blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit, two hours after his truck left I-95, according to previous testimony.

Bly conceded in his opening statement that his client was too drunk to drive and guilty of operating under the influence.

Cheney, who has no criminal history, faces up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine on the manslaughter conviction, the most serious of the charges. Almy said Thursday that he would recommend a significant sentence be imposed

In addition to the criminal charges, J.C. Bakley said that he has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cheney. Bakley declined to elaborate on the pending litigation.

CORRECTION:

An early version of this story incorrectly identified the woman who sat next to J.C. Bakley during the trial. She is Bakley’s sister-in-law Robin.

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